There was never any doubt that Sandro Fioriti was going to be a chef. Not even when he raced Alfa Romeos at some of Europe's top events, set a free-fall record of 1600 meters skydiving over Milan, appeared, however briefly, in a DeSica film or boxed semi-professionally under another name so that his mother wouldn't find out. Even on his seventh birthday, in the little town of Firaldo Tadino where he was born, he won first prize for his hazelnut cookies. The certificate was presented to his grandmother to avoid the wrath of the local housewives.
Sando's training was honed in the varied kitchens of a large family that enjoyed eating and who preserved the centuries-old traditions of preparing classical Umbrian cuisine. It foreshadowed the adventurous path he was to take, starting as a cook in the Galleria San Pietro, Frascati's most famous ice cream parlor at the age of 15. On his 17th birthday, he moved to the Ristorante Cacciani as sous chef to the renowned Franco Carbonari. Just a few days short of his 21st birthday in 1968, he won another first prize, this one at the prestigious Circolo della Stampa in Milan. In presenting him with his award, the dean of Italian food critics, Vincenzo Buonassisi said, "given the opportunity, you will, one day, bring a whole new dimension to the thousand year old tradition of Italian cooking."
After working at Cacciani, Sandro was ready to open his first restaurant, D'Artagnan, named in memory of the great Dumas hero who, in one of the chapters of the The Three Musketeers, outlined a dessert recipe with 20 pounds of ingredients and a quart of liquor. D'Artagnan was an instant success, featuring a variety of innovative dishes that were to become Sandro signatures: risotto with strawberries, salads made with fried tulips, penne with a sauce of vodka, tomatoes, smoked bacon and olive oil. He also excelled with the more familiar presentations of roast meats and fowl, homemade pastas and soups. The olive oils were seasoned as were the vinegars and the fiery grappas - with garlic, rosemary, chili peppers, oranges, peaches, bananas and raspberries.
Sandro decided to open a New York restaurant in 1984 while attending the GRI (Gruppo Ristatori Italiani) convention in Parma, Italy. Tony May, GRI's chairman, owner of San Domenico NY and a long-time friend, offered the resources to launch what became one of the more talked about Italian kitchens in town. The original Sandro's, which opened in 1985, was an instant success, introducing both Sandro and authentic Italian cuisine to New York City. For seven years, Sandro's drew people to an unlikely location under the 59th Street bridge with dishes then unheard of in New York.
When the original Sandro's closed in 1992, Fioriti moved to the Caribbean, where he opened an eponymous restaurant and enjoyed the island life. After a hurricane destroyed the restaurant, he returned to New York to open Sandro's on Ninth Avenue at 22nd Street.
In the spring of 2007, Fioriti came full circle with the opening of the third incarnation of Sandro's on East 81st Street. "This is my place now; I'm going to be here for a long time," says Sandro, who is the chef and owner. The restaurant, serving Sandro's signature Roman-style cuisine, became an instant success and a favorite of both neighborhood and Italian food lovers everywhere.